By Jonathon Van Maren
In a stunning sentence late last year, a court in Bremen, Germany, sentenced Rev. Olaf Latzel of St. Martini (part of the Evangelical Church in Germany: EKD) to a fine of €8,100 for “inciting hatred” against homosexuals in private remarks made to church couples. During the seminar, Latzel defended the biblical definitions of gender and sexuality, condemning the Berlin Pride March and referring to gender ideology as “an attack against God’s order of Creation.”
Latzel’s defense lawyer called the sentence, which the pastor is appealing, a “catastrophe,” and warned that free speech was under threat: “While today this is about a view found in the Bible, tomorrow it will be about any other opinion.”
Latzel’s lawyer told the court that the Bremen pastor was condemning behavior rather than people, but the judge stated that the “homosexual orientation of a person is a part of [his] personality.” Some Protestant leaders in Bremen appear to be more concerned by how biblical teachings reflect on their popularity, rather than by threats to their ability to proclaim the Gospel, announcing in response to the sentence that they “condemned in the strongest terms” Latzel’s words. The EKD is a largely liberal denomination, and Latzel’s traditional views have made him a controversial figure for some time. St. Martini church, where Latzel serves as pastor, has even had services interrupted by LGBT activists.